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Bulul the Rice God

Bulul the Rice God

There he was! Sitting on a platform in a fetal position with crouched legs. His head had an attractive piece of headgear and a necklace made of bones adored his neck. He had dressed like a Bulul the rice god. I heard a soft voice, “photo?”. The hopeful eyes of this wrinkled man looked at me.


I was in a hurry to reach my guesthouse and didn’t pay any heed. Later, while hiking in the mountains I saw the old man again. This time on my route to upper terraces of Batad. Or was he a different one?
Anyway, this time I clicked a few shots of him and paid. That’s how these old men earn a few dollars from tourists.

The Bul-ul or Bulol, as it is locally known, is an Ifugao anthropomorphic carving that symbolizes an Ifugao rice God. It also signifies fertility and is believed to gain spirits of ancestors or guardians.


Bulul, the rice man, is a carved wooden figure with simple shape of a human being, male or female. Mounted on a platform for stability, it is mostly carved out of strong narra or ipil wood and sometimes stone. Sizes vary depending on its use. Bululs are usually made in pairs, a male and a female, but some are done individually too. The traditional art form may appear crude, with no sophisticated details, but it is praised as a fine example of abstract art. The Ifugao is famous for its skill in carving Bululs.

Bululs play an important role in the agriculture of the Ifugao people of northern Luzon in Philippines and said to guard the rice crop. It is involved in all the steps and aspects of rice production… from rice planting, to the safekeeping of the harvest in rice granaries. The sculpture is made mainly as guardian of a rice granary.

The process of creating a Bulul includes a ritual by the mumbaki or the priest to ensure its power. Careful selection of the wood is made and it is consecrated with pig’s blood.

One can see Bululs in front of a house, a granary or near the harvest. The male bulul is placed at the right and the female at the left. It is regarded with care and respect. Treating it otherwise is believed to result in hostile situations such as sickness and pestilence from the spirits or ancestors.

A fundamental part in Ifugao culture, Bululs are now are produced and sold as a variety of souvenir items or decorative art.

Bulul as a souvenir.
Bulul as a souvenir.
I use it as a remote holder. :)
I use it as a remote holder. 🙂

I bring cultures from all over the world to my home. What do you bring? 🙂

P.S.- This is a monthly series exhibiting various souvenirs that I have picked up from my journeys across the globe. You can see more of them here. And this time it is from Philippines.
Next Souvenir:- I’ll take you to Jordan. 🙂

If you want to travel places with me, I suggest you to join me on my Facebook travel page.
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46 thoughts on “Bulul the Rice God”

  1. Thank you, thank you very much!

    I have been waiting for this series. Thru this we get to know integral culture of the place.

    Please continue this time.

  2. Interesting, hearing about the bululs.
    And that’s some way to earn money — dressing up for tourists. And when they are in traditional attire like that, we can’t help bring back pics, can we?

    Have a great week, Nisha. 🙂

  3. Very interesting post about bululs, a term I was not familiar with. I am a trivia freak so I love that you included so many cool facts about them. The photos were great, too.

  4. Wow – what an interesting custom and culture. I’m always impressed with how people can find ways to make local customs and characters go on and on – from souvenirs to guys making money from tourists, it’s so entrepreneurial!

  5. Hahaha! You use it as a remote control holder 😀 funny! When I used to travel for a few weeks or days at a time, i used to bring souvenirs back home but i stopped eventually as my house started to overflow with memorabilia from all over the world and it felt cluttered. I rarely take anything home unless it’s of use e.g.: a bed throw, salad spoons, a rug etc. it seems like you have found a good use for your Bulul 🙂

  6. I’ve seen sculptures of Bulul before, but never knew it depicted a specific person or even a story behind it. Now I do, thank you! I really like your photo of the old man, he looks so gentle and lovely.

  7. Neat souvenir! I’m always in two minds about paying people to take their photos while overseas. It’s a delicate balance, though I do understand that this is how men like this make their living. My opinion is that photos make the best souvenirs :D!

    While you’re in Jordan next, I’ve heard you can get bottles of sand art which are absolutely gorgeous and depict historic and cultural scenes from the country. Could be a cool souvenir to bring home!

  8. What a cool idea to share about the souvenirs you pick up and the meaning behind them! It is so interesting to learn about the different beliefs and superstitions of cultures around the world. The Philippines is high on my list of countries to visit this year. Hoping to get there this fall!

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